Port of Oakland: Outer Harbor Enlargement – Oakland CA


The Public Works Administration (PWA) provided funding to the Port Authority of Oakland to enlarge  the Outer Harbor area, just south of the Bay Bridge. The work was done as the bridge was under construction, c 1935-36.

From PWA photographs the work appears to consist of a wharf area facing west, five large warehouse buildings and various roads and trackage surrounding those.

The PWA final report elaborates:  “The project included reinforced concrete and creosoated pile wharfs, 850 feet of berthing space, 123,500 square feet of wharf area, 201,000 square feet of paved area on fill, 5,800 feet of railroad tracks, 114,300 square feet of roadway, and a reinforced transit shed with 49,100 square feet of storage area.” (Short & Stanley-Brown 1939).

It is not certain how much money was allocated for this project, but a history of the Port of Oakland says this:

 “The original $9.96 million in bond monies was depleted by 1938. Between 1934 and 1940, the Public Works Administration, the Works Progress Administration and other federal agencies provided a total of $2.35 million for various Port projects.” (Minor 19x) 

The area behind the PWA warehouses appear empty in the original photos but later filled up with more port facilities and, behind that, the enormous Oakland Army Base.  The latter was established in 1941 and grew precipitously to serve as the chief logistics/supply terminal for the Army in the Pacific during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

The PWA Outer Harbor facilities are clearly visible in 1935, 1950 and 1968 aerial photographs, available at: https://aerialarchives.photoshelter.com, and was still there in a 1994 photo, below.  After that, things changed dramatically as the Oakland Army Base closed in the 1990s and the Port of Oakland has carried out major renovations of the Outer Harbor in the 2000s, erasing all trace of the New Deal era expansion area (clearly given over to cranes and container storage in the  2005 photograph).


Source notes

Short, C. W. and R. Stanley-Brown (1939), Public Buildings: Architecture Under the Public Works Administration, 1933 to 1939. United States Government Printing Office: Washington, DC.

Minor, Woodruff, 2000. Pacific Gateway: An Illustrated History of the Port of Oakland. (Oakland CA: Port of Oakland)

Cockrell, Cathy,  2010, "Oral history weaves story of the Oakland Army Base and its profound region-wide impact," Berkeley News, October 4. 



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Location Info

Outer Harbor
Oakland, CA 94607

Coordinates: 37.799795, -122.3236

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